- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — Three federally recognized South Dakota Sioux tribes filed an injunction in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on Wednesday to stop Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from including Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) in the distribution of the $8 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for tribal governments.
In the lawsuit, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe seek declaratory and injunctive relief in the federal district court to stop any funds going to the ANCs.
The lawsuits do not attempt to stop funds to tribal governments in Alaska, but only the ANCs, which the plaintiff tribes maintain are state-chartered and for-profit corporations, not tribes.
In the lawsuit, the Sioux tribes maintain the ANCs do not employ large numbers of tribal citizens or assist the local Alaska village economies. The United States does not recognize Alaska Native Corporations and Congress did not intend for corporations to be eligible for relief funds designed to assist government institutions; therefore, they should not reap the benefits of the CARES Act in such a substantial way, the filing states.
In a press release issued by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the tribes say “Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (ASIA) Tara Sweeney, is recommending a grossly unfair allocation plan to the US Treasury Department.”
Sweeney, an Alaska Native and former executive at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, an ANC based in Utqiagvik, Alaska, came under fire early last week when she disclosed she interpreted the CARES Act to include ANCs.
The Sioux tribes’ lawsuit argues ANCs constitute a minority of the indigenous population in the United States.
According to the last US Census, Alaskan Natives have a population of approximately 106,660, which is only 1.5 percent of the more than 6.7 million Native Americans living in the United States today.
The lawsuit also refers to a leaked spreadsheet document that included sensitive financial and demographic data about the tribes and ANCs. In the spreadsheet, all 12 Alaska regional ANCs and numerous village ANCs had allegedly submitted requests for Title V Coronavirus relief funds, based on population, land base, employees, and expenditures.
Using the leaked data, which has not been authenticated, the South Dakota tribes show a contrast between one of largest ANCs and the Cheyenne River and Rosebud Sioux tribes.
The lawsuit notes: “By way of example, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which encompasses Barrow and Point Hope, Alaska, claimed 13,021 members, 4,094,101 acres of the land base, 12,146 employees, and reported $3,706,885,000.00 in total expenditures for the last fiscal year.
“By contrast, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has roughly 22,000 members, 2.8million acres, nearly 900 employees, and approximately $112,000,000 in total expenditures for the last fiscal year, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has roughly 35,600 members, 1.26 million acres, 800 employees, and similar total expenditures.”
The CARES Act funds designated for tribes are due to be distributed on April 26, 2020.
The Cheyenne River Sioux is represented by Big Fire Law & Policy Group, based in Bellevue, Nebraska; the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is represented by the Native American Relief Fund (NARF)’s Anchorage, Alaska office; and the Oglala Sioux Tribes is represented by its own tribal legal department.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include additional information from the court filing.
More Stories Like ThisNative News Weekly (September 25, 2022): D.C. Briefs
Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola Hits the Ground Running: Her First Bill Introduced Clears Committee Two Days Later
EXCLUSIVE: Deb Haaland Q&A on Road to Healing Tour Progress
September 20 is National Voter Registration Day: Native Organizations Team Up to Increase Native Youth Voter Engagement
Tribal Business News Round-Up: Sept. 19
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.